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Bible Study Guide for Sunday August 9, 2020

August 6, 2020

● Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

● Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b

● Romans 10:5-15

● Matthew 14:22-23

The readings selected this week concern matters of faith and how they can affect our relationship with God and our relationships with each other.

A key piece of the Joseph story that the lectionary leaves out is the details of Joseph’s dreams. Joseph has several prophetic dreams that indicate his older brothers will eventually come to serve him. Joseph, in his youthful immaturity, thoughtlessly shares these dreams with his brothers. Joseph’s brothers respond with malice, already resentful of the favor their father Jacob shows Joseph. They fake their brother’s death and sell him into slavery.

The brothers’ actions are evil, deeply troubling, and an overreaction, to put it mildly. The proper response to Joseph’s lording it over them would have been patience, a confrontation with Jacob over his favoritism, or perhaps just some humor at Joseph’s expense. Joseph is a victim undeserving of his brothers’ actions.

However, there is a lesson to be learned from Joseph’s own behavior particularly in matters of faith. If we are lucky, we can find ourselves in the enviable position where we feel fully confident in our faith and sure of our relationship with God, similar to Joseph’s confidence in his dreams. Such confidence can be a source of strength. However, it can also undermine our ability to empathize with those who are at a low point in their faith life. Such self-assuredness can especially separate us from those who have left Christianity or feel abandoned by religion and live fully outside the walls of the church.

God, as Jesus, shows us a better way. When Peter has a moment of weakness and falls into the water, Jesus does not mock Peter before helping him. Instead, Jesus “immediately” reaches out. Only after he has caught Peter does Christ ask Peter why he doubted.

Jesus shows us that we must meet a person’s immediate needs before we help them grapple with their faith. If they are hungry, we must feed them. If they are sick, we must wrestle with that illness honestly rather than simply offering well intentioned religious platitudes. And if they have in the past been made to feel unwelcome or unwanted in a religious space, we must address those feelings seriously. We must help them without any expectation of conversion on their part.

Such patience and serious concern for my own feelings about religion was ultimately what brought me into the Christian flock. Bad experiences with those who projected a zealous overconfidence played a large role in what kept me out of it for many years.

In his letter this week, Paul highlights how important it is for us to spread the Good News and how each person stands on the cusp of faith. Even though God is close by with an outstretched hand, we must remember that spreading the Good News is not simply a matter of literally telling it to people or getting them to say they believe a creed.

Instead, the Good News is spread as much, if not more, when it undergirds our actions and serves as the words behind our words. We must be patient like the growing mustard seed that is the kingdom of heaven. Otherwise, we risk distorting the kingdom into an off-putting thunderclap.

● Have you ever been the giver or receiver of zealous overconfidence? What was that experience like for you? If you were the giver, what might have it been like for the person on the receiving end?

● Has there been a time when your faith was shaky, but God strengthened your faith by meeting your immediate needs?

● Does Paul’s quotation from Deuteronomy “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” resonate with you? Why or why not?


Author: Ryan Newberry


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